Lunik IX - a Romani people neighbourhood / part 1
A Ghetto in future European Capital of Culture Kosice
Lunik IX, a city district of Kosice bears almost all signs of a ghetto. In panel blocks with capacity of 2400 inhabitants live almost three times more people - and even more in winter.
95% of them do not pay rent, thus there is no electricity, hot water or anything standard. People live in disgusting conditions that are getting worse. Dirt, high criminality and poor infrastructure are specific for this place. The neighbourhood is an unbelievable contrast to historical Kosice centre also stays as a symbol for a political fight. Unfortunately, always after election when the billboards with promises disappear, solutions for Lunix IX disappear as well.
How it all began?
In 70’s, when Slovakia was still communist country, a government committee for Roma questions decided about building a new district called ABC (in Slovak language: armada –army, bezpecnost –safety, cigany – romas). The reason was that Kosice was the region with highest Roma population in the country, living in not suitable conditions, often even without tap water. So the plan for integration was born.
Centrally planned economy aimed to remove all gypsy barns in the town centre and surrounding and violently move families into the new district. The original plan was to build two-room family houses, however it ended up with eight floor high panel blocks. In 1975 Lunik IX was given its name.
A lot of questions until today
So why, when they got brand new flats in new district, it resulted into a ghetto? It is probably a mistake of communication and misunderstanding of the Roma. Most of them were used to live in camps, huts and trailes. They were forced to move into a foreign environment, made fire inside flats, gave new furniture away to relatives living still in camps out of town. There is a story, maybe true, that one man tried to bring a horse into his flat. More sever problems evolved from the fact that enemy clans were brought to live next to each other. So, no wonder: The integration plan totally failed.
Until 1989, 99% of population in the area had a job. Now it is the opposite. In 1995 a conception was signed, calling Lunik IX a district for homeless, no rent payers and inadaptable citizen. All not Roma people were moved out of there. It was the final nail.
The hope is in children
The infant school situated at Lunik IX is visited only by children living in the district. It achieves to some surprise very good results so that the kids are ready for elementary school in other districts where they have better chance to integrate out of the Lunix IX culture.
Part 2 of this article we will debate how representatives see Lunik IX and the effects of cultural capital in 2013.
More information about this complex topic: roma press agency.
Photography: Artur Conka